Agros Blog

Agros Hires Engagement Manager

Agros International is pleased to announce the hiring of Guillermo Mario Jiménez as Engagement Manager. This position coordinates programs designed to engage individuals, businesses, churches, and community organizations in the organization’s mission. His primary responsibilities will be to develop meaningful travel experiences that educate donors and prospects about rural poverty and issues specific to Central America and Agros as well as to help develop a global community.This role is part of Agros’ Resource Development and Marketing team.

Guillermo received his BA in Philosophy and Business Administration from Houghton College and MA in International Development from Eastern University. He served as the International Experience Manager for River Church Community in San Jose, CA before returning to his home country of Honduras where he served as the Development Facilitator and Advocacy Coordinator for World Vision Honduras. He also spent two years with Servant Partners in Honduras where he pioneered their community organizing efforts in an urban slum of Tegucigalpa. For the past nine months, Guillermo has served as the Interim Partner Travel Program Manager for Agros. He is also the owner of Metanoia Organic Farm in La Paz, Honduras.

“The Engagement Manager position is new to Agros,” explained Anne Baunach, Director of Resource Development. “We have added this position to help us look more holistically at our travel and education programs as resources to help us in engaging individuals, businesses, and churches in a global community. We interviewed many candidates and selected Guillermo because of his multi-faceted background and experience working both in and on behalf of the poor in Central America. We are thrilled to have him managing this program for Agros.”

Guillermo will start in this new role for Agros on December 31, 2013.

Agros is Hiring Engagement Manager

Agros International is seeking to fill a new organizational position: Engagement Manager. This position, which is part of the resource development and marketing team, works with individuals, businesses, churches, and community organizations to develop meaningful travel experiences. The travel program is designed to educate donors and prospective donors about rural poverty, issues specific to Central America and Agros and help create a global community. Ultimately, the goal of this position is to transform hearts so that those engaged are committed to long-term financial support of Agros.

This position requires a person who is bilingual in English and Spanish. Superior organizational skills and the ability to be timeline driven are necessary. This position will require a great deal of collaboration with both internal and external partners and so the ability to work well within is team is critical. This position may require as much as 40% domestic and international travel.

A complete position description is available on our website at: http://www.agros.org/ag/inside-agros/careers/. Applications are being accepted until the position is filled.

Agros International Seeks Director of Finance & Administration

Agros International is seeking a Director of Finance and Administration to join our team. This is a great opportunity for someone wanting to help Agros achieve its mission by providing leadership, oversight and evaluation of the organization through planning, organizing and directing the various financial functions. This person is an integral part of the Agros senior leadership team, reporting directly to the CEO and having regular interface with the Board of Directors as well. This position has the simultaneous role of regular “hands on” duties as well as big picture strategic thinking. Thus, the successful candidate will possess the dual skill set of being a broad and big picture thinker along with one who can execute and successfully navigate details.

A copy of the position profile is located on our website at www.agros.org. Select “Inside Agros” and then “Careers”.

Recruitment for the position is being handled by LuAnn Carlson of Corporate Strategies and Development, LLC. For more information about the position or to apply, please contact LuAnn at 206.972.6967 or lcarlsonatcsdseattledotcom.

Agros International Receives International Service Award

Agros International received the 2013 Distinction in International Service Award (DISA) from the students and staff of The Martin Institute at the University of Idaho on April 30, 2013. CEO Don Manning was on hand to receive the award.

“We were honored to receive this award,” shared Manning. “The students researched organizations that had a holistic approach to the root causes of poverty and chose to honor Agros for the work that we are doing in Central America. This is a great honor coming from students who are preparing to launch into the world and tackle these important issues.”

The DISA award was established in 2011 after the faculty, staff, and students of the Martin Institute began to look at the non-profit organizations in the Pacific Northwest focused on international work. They recognized that some quite remarkable – and largely unrecognized – international work was happening through organizations in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and thus established this award. A five-person selection committee met over two months to review candidate organizations. Five finalists were chosen from nearly 100 organizations, with Agros International being selected as the 2013 DISA recipient. Past recipients include the International Rescue Committee in 2011, and A Child’s Right in 2012.

The Martin Institute is a teaching and research entity founded in 1979 to study the causes of war and the conditions necessary for peace, and is affiliated with the International Studies degree program at the University of Idaho. Nearly 240 students participate in the program, with focus areas including international relations, global resources or development, and international business or economics.

Regional Manager of Economic Development Hired

Agros International is proud to announce that Boris Corpeño has been hired as our new Honduras-based Regional Director of Economic Development. He will report to Joel Martinez, Agros Regional Director, and will help direct the agricultural work happening in the field.

Boris holds a B.A. in agronomy from Zamorano University and a B.S. from the Evangelical University of El Salvador (San Salvador). He has worked with several prominent organizations including the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development where he was an agronomist for 12 years managing a demonstration plot for pineapple, sweet corn and tomatoes. He was also a manager for FINTRAC working in El Salvador and Honduras as well as a manager of irrigation systems at International AgroChemistry.

Boris is passionate about Agros’ work in Central America. “I am excited to start working with Agros,” he says. This position is a gift from God. I have been praying for this kind of work. Because of my religious principles, in this stage in my life, I want to invest in other people. I want to have an impact. The best challenges are those that have great meaning in life. I believe this work will bring great satisfaction. When I see people move forward and achieve something different, I can see it in their face, their children, and the way that they carry themselves. This is my goal.”

Boris believes that success at Agros should be measured by the sustainable increase in the economic status of those we serve. He believes that if they are successful with their agribusinesses, that they then will have the resources for education, better nutrition, improved healthcare, and a higher standard of living.

Boris and his wife, Jasmina, have three children: Laura (21), Andrea (17), and Boris (14). In his free time he enjoys playing the guitar, singing, and playing football, basketball, and volleyball.

We are excited to that Boris is joining our Central America team, and grateful that his expertise will be used to empower Agros communities. Please join us in welcoming Boris to the Agros family!

Save the Date – Tierras de Vida 2013

Save the date for our 10th Anniversary Tierras de Vida fundraising event. The dinner will be held on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at Fremont Studios. This promises to be another wonderful event. We hope to see you there.

Sponsorship information is available by request by calling Anne Baunach at 206.528.1066. Tickets and table host information will be available later this spring.

Mark you calendar to join us. We hope to see you there!!

A Final Blog Post From Sean

Dear Agros Supporters, Partners, and Family,

After five incredible years as Director of Communications at Agros, the time has come to move on to new employment opportunities. I carry with me a profound sense of gratitude for having had the opportunity to walk alongside so many extraordinary families throughout Central America and Mexico; families who have graced us with their vulnerable and heroic stories of Desire. Suffering. Resiliency. And Hope.

We have all witnessed time and again how the stories of people who live and struggle in the developing world are simplistically reduced to caricatures of either pity or glorification.  This is particularly true when those stories are told for fundraising purposes.  On the one hand, pity is emphasized because of the enormous suffering these people have experienced.  On the other hand, they are over-romanticized and glorified as the most incredible people on earth due to their resiliency, hope, and generosity.

I do not mean to be cynical—at all.  I recognize that in many ways, these two emotional poles represent truth.  And as Director of Communications, Agros families have certainly given me cause to highlight both their suffering and resiliency.

But I also recognize that the deeper truths of any human story—as well as the truth of the Agros story–lie somewhere in the middle; in the narrative regions that speak to the fact that every human life is filled with complexity, wonder, conflict, and desire. And the tagline “ending rural poverty” can never be reduced to a single story, image, or video clip.

Over the years, Agros has learned that poverty is most comprehensively defined and understood through the concept of broken relationships.  For the rural poor, all of the essential connections and relationships that make up a healthy society have broken down: relationships with local municipalities; economic, education, and health institutions; the environment; cultural identity; and even family relationships break down as parents (and all too often, children) are forced to migrate in search of work just to survive.

Agros responds with a holistic development model built on the belief that these families have the capacity themselves to work their way out of poverty and build back these broken relationships—if given the opportunity to develop what is needed most:  farmable land, economic enterprise, and, most importantly, human dignity.

Another way of saying this is that for Agros, ending poverty is not just a phrase, a marketing slogan, or a speech to be given over a fundraising dinner.  “Ending rural poverty” IS the relationships our staff have with Tomasa, Diego, Teresa, Noemi, Mateo, Serbando, and countless other Agros families.

There are no easy fixes, no magic bullet, and no single intervention that will make generations of suffering go away.  And yet, after 27 years of faithful, hard work throughout Central America, Agros has stayed true to its original promise of empowering entire communities to work their way free from generations of poverty.  In Agros villages, I have heard families say again and again, “In our suffering and poverty, we were forgotten, abandoned, left to die.  But then Agros came.  And Agros has kept their promise.  We are not the same as before.  We have hope and our children have a new future.”

In Agros villages, hope has taken the place of despair—for generations to come.

I think this is best summed up by the words of an Agros villager in El Edén, Nicaragua when I asked him to describe what Agros means to him personally.  Without pausing, he said, “To me, Agros is a mirror.  A mirror in which we’ve been able to see our face; we have seen that we have dignity and that we matter.

I leave Agros with clarity: It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve the families in Agros villages by sharing with you their stories of dignity and desire.  I have also been forever changed by witnessing the life-giving generosity of so many Agros donors.  And I think of the Agros staff and board as family.  Thank you—mil gracias—to each of you. I remain your most ardent advocate.

Yours in Land, Hope, and Life,

- Sean

Damages from Tropical Storm Matthew

Last weekend, Tropical Storm Matthew passed across Central America and southern Mexico affecting all of the countries where Agros works. The storm brought torrential rains, flooding, and crop damage. The impact of the storm was exacerbated by the fact that the region had previously experienced 6 weeks of constant, heavy rain that left much of the land fully saturated. By the time Tropical Storm Matthew arrived, conditions were set for significant rain damage.

We have been in close communication with all Agros Country Directors as they have evaluated the storm’s impact and formulated plans to reinvest and support the communities through this time.

The initial damage estimates are:

Mexico:
Basic grain crops damaged in three communities: San Pedrito, Santa Fe Ajké, & Espinal Buena Vista.

Honduras:
Basic grain crops damaged in all four communities and plantain crops showing delayed growth development.

Communities affected: Brisas del Volcán, Nuevo Amanecer, Bella Vista, &La Piedra de Horeb.

El Salvador:
Basic grain crops damaged in two communities: San Diego de Tenango and La Esperanza.

Nicaragua:
Basic grain crops damaged in all seven of the affected communities; coffee & plantain crop damage in four communities; the greatest damage is in Luz de Mañana–four families are currently staying with family members in the city of Rivas until the flooding subsides. There was also housing and latrine damage in the community of Nueva Esperanza.

Communities affected: El Edén, San José, Nueva Esperanza, Futuro del Mañana, San Marcos de Belen, Luz del Mañana, & Norwich.

Guatemala:
No reported damages.

The most significant damage occurred in Nicaragua, particularly with the corn and bean crops, which were to serve as a primary food source for future months.

In Honduras and El Salvador, the Country Directors and their staff are working with the local authorities to access available local resources to help the communities replant.

Agros International’s priorities are to make certain that essential food security remains in all villages; that income generation continues; and to ensure access to needed healthcare and housing repairs as necessary. Agros International has emergency funds that will be leveraged towards this effort; local authorities are making resources available; and Agros will be launching an appeal to raise an additional $16,500 to cover the unexpected losses.

World Humanitarian Day

Today is World Humanitarian Day and we would like to draw your attention to this remarkable video as we also celebrate our international staff for all they do. While this video is not directly about Agros staff members, it nevertheless celebrates individuals across the world who work tirelessly for a better world.

Agros International serves in 5 countries throughout Central America. Each in-country office is staffed with people who are passionate about ending rural poverty; passionate about seeing transformation take place in real lives.

Every day there are dedicated in-country staff who rise before the sun and head out to work in Agros-supported rural villages. The villagers eagerly await their arrival; the staff are seen as true partners in this journey out of poverty.

Our community development staff and agricultural technicians provide villagers with the training and resources they need to pull themselves out of poverty. The community development workers help villagers strengthen leadership and entrepreneurial skills as well as promote greater gender equality and opportunity. The agricultural technicians work tirelessly with farmers on applying new and improved farming methods for the crops the villagers grow for consumption and income generation. Without such dedicated staff, Agros would not be able to provide the rural poor with the opportunity and support they need to break the cycle of poverty.

Please join us in giving thanks to our in-country staff from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua for all they do!

Job Opening at Agros – Direct Marketing Manager

This is to announce a new job opening at Agros.  A general description follows below, and you can read more on our Careers page, including instructions on how to apply.

POSITION:  Direct Marketing Manager

The Agros Direct Marketing Manager will plan, manage, and grow all aspects of Agros’ General Donor segment. This segment, as defined by Agros, is made up of donors who make annual gifts to Agros –one time or cumulative–of $5,000 or less.

Balancing strategy and execution, s/he will bring strategic oversight and management of this segment, working to develop and increase overall giving through channel management and marketing expertise. This encompasses among others, expertise in:

• General donor fundraising
• Developing and implementing effective donor acquisition and retention strategies
• Direct mail and online giving engagement

The Direct Marketing Manager will implement a long-term strategy to grow this segment in conjunction with the Agros International 3-year Strategic Plan. The Direct Marketing Manager will directly oversee the management of all direct mail, online and monthly giving programs, and work closely in all aspects of resource development to create, market and support multi-faceted fundraising campaigns.

Additionally, the Direct Marketing Manager will also help in the writing and creative production of associated online & collateral material for this segment.

Go here to read more.

Press Release: One Village Online Sponsorship Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2010

Seattle-based non-profit launches one-of-a-kind online village sponsorship program

Utilizing cutting-edge technology, the Agros One Village program provides unparalleled access to sponsor Central American villages on their journey out of extreme poverty.

Agros International is proud to introduce a new online multimedia experience and monthly sponsorship program called One Village. This program leverages unique online technology in order to connect supporters to rural families in Central America. For as little as $15 a month, sponsors can make a difference in the lives of rural families working together as a village community to overcome poverty.

Agros is a Seattle-based non-profit organization that works with poor, landless farmers in Central America and Mexico. Through a unique, holistic development model, Agros extends loans to purchase farmland and then partners and trains farmers for 7-10 years in applying sustainable agricultural practices, all with the goal of enabling these families to create, develop, and eventually own a sustainable village. Agros has started 40 village projects across five countries.

Through the One Village website, donors are able to sponsor an actual rural village in Central America, and then follow that community online through first-hand stories, compelling photos, videos, panoramic photography, and project updates detailing village progress.

We’ve learned at Agros that donors want to do more than just write a check to a worthy cause; they want to see the difference their donations make in real lives. Today, we are excited to invite people to the One Village website where they can experience and support a Central American village in an incredible journey out of extreme poverty,” shares Sean Dimond, Agros Communications Director.

In order to build this remarkable virtual experience, Agros International partnered with CrashShop, a Seattle-based interactive media studio specializing in innovative websites, to help develop the online technology. The One Village website is a first of its kind, integrating the WordPress Content Management System with Adobe’s Flash platform. “We believe in Agros’ work, and are thrilled to play a part in helping more people experience and sponsor Agros villages. It’s a privilege to help restore hope and dignity to the world’s poor through the One Village website,” says Michael Redmond, Founder & President of CrashShop.

To learn more about the Agros One Village experience, visit http://onevillage.agros.org/.

Announcing One Village!

onevillageheaderWe’re so excited to share with you One Village—a unique opportunity to sponsor and walk with a rural village of Central America in a hope-filled journey out of poverty.

Using the power of multimedia, Agros International has created a truly one-of-a-kind online experience where—for as little as $15/month—you can sponsor and follow an actual village as they create new lives for themselves and their children.

For Agros villages, this steady stream of reliable support will help ensure that the development goals of the village can be met.  For sponsoring donors, the unique access via an online platform to the people and projects that comprise a given village is the closest one can get to actually being in a village short of traveling there. Through this journey, you’ll hear the voices of villagers and ambient sounds; you’ll see the beauty behind both the successes and ongoing challenges that the villagers face.

As you follow the progress of your sponsored One Village online, you’ll come to know the people more intimately through stories told in their own words, compelling photos, videos, and project updates.  And in addition, you’ll receive a quarterly update from your sponsored One Village via email!

1 – You Know About the Devastating Problem
Almost half the world lives on less than $2.50/day. More than a billion people go to bed hungry. Most of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas and are landless.

2 – You Know That Agros Has An Effective Solution
Agros empowers entire rural villages to work their own way out of poverty by providing access to farmable land, long-term credit, and agricultural business training.

3Now… You Can Directly Help One Village Break Free from Poverty!

The need is great…the Agros solution works… and the One Village experience is a truly unique opportunity for you to directly help end rural povertyOne Village at a time.

EXPLORE the unique experience of One Village!

CHOOSE to be part of the journey!

SPONSOR One Village today!

One Village…Coming Soon!

The countdown is officially on!

On Monday July 26th, Agros International will be launching one of the most unique website experiences—dare we say—ever!  Journey with us via an online, multimedia experience, and you will have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore an Agros village up close and personal, come to know the people and projects that make that village so special, and directly help them end rural poverty for good… One Village at a time!

We’re excited to share this with you—so please stay tuned…

Press Release: Agros’ 40th Village – Nueva Illusion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2010

Seattle-based non-profit announces 40th village
New village enables 25 Guatemalan refugee families in Chiapas, Mexico to break the cycle of poverty through land ownership

SEATTLE, WA–Twenty-five hardworking, yet landless and impoverished families are getting an extraordinary opportunity to escape poverty—to own 175 acres of productive agricultural land so important to their livelihoods, and to build a thriving, sustainable community of their own.

Nueva Ilusión, meaning “New Dream,” is the latest and 40th village project launched and supported by Agros International, a Seattle-based nonprofit enabling the world’s rural poor to attain land ownership and break the cycle of poverty through a holistic and sustainable approach to village development.

Villagers in Nueva Ilusión—like the families in the 39 Agros-sponsored villages that have preceded them—will access the land critical to their survival and hopes for a better future through long-term loans from Agros. This land will be used to generate sustainable income to support their families, pay back the loans, and create a secure future. Agros —committed to ending the cycle of poverty in all its forms — will provide support every step of the way as families define a community vision, develop local leadership, and launch a strategic development plan that includes housing, irrigation, agricultural business training, micro-enterprise loans, and education and health programs. “There are no other organizations like Agros that we know of that use long-term credit for land ownership, combined with holistic development, to empower rural families to work their own way out of extreme poverty,” says Laurie Werner, Agros Director of Program.

Since 1982, over 9,000 poorest of the world’s poor have gained land, hope, and transformed lives in Agros-supported villages throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico. The Agros village model has caught on among villagers and supporters in recent years, with the number of Agros villages doubling from 20 to 40 within the past six years.

Agros has also won recognition for providing “lasting solutions to poverty” from an alliance of the World Bank, the UNDP, and the Inter-American Foundation.

Press Release: Trapichitos Land Titles

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2010

Seattle-based non-profit enables land for 59 indigenous Guatemalan families
After three decades, refugee survivors of Guatemala armed conflict of 1980s return to their land as rightful owners

SEATTLE, WA–Fifty-nine indigenous Mayan Guatemalan families received titles to their land in early April, twenty-nine years after fleeing from violence incited by the civil war that ravaged rural areas 1960-1996.

These families, living in the village of Trapichitos in rural Quiché, Guatemala, including nearly 250 men, women and children, partnered with Seattle-based non-profit Agros International in 2000. Agros is a non-profit that enables the world’s rural poor to attain land ownership and break the cycle of poverty through a holistic and sustainable approach to village development.

Villagers in Trapichitos—like the families in the other 39 Agros-sponsored villages throughout Central America and Mexico—have spent the past ten years defining a community vision, developing local leadership and implementing a strategic plan that includes housing, irrigation, agricultural business training, micro-enterprise loans, and education and health programs. Agros purchases the land and through long-term support, training and access to credit, families are able to repay the land loan. “Land ownership is critical to ensure vulnerable families are empowered to have a means to work themselves out of poverty,” says Director of Program Laurie Werner. “The Trapichitos families now hold titles to their property, a security and asset they can pass on to ensure a sustainable future for the next generation.”

Since 1982, over 9,000 of the world’s poorest have gained land, hope, and transformed lives in Agros-supported villages throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico. The Agros village model has caught on among villagers and supporters in recent years, with the number of Agros villages doubling from 20 to 40 within the past six years. To date, 210 families, about 1,370 people, have become proud land owners through Agros.

Agros has also won recognition for providing “lasting solutions to poverty” from an alliance of the World Bank, the UNDP, and the Inter-American Foundation, and is also a winner of the 2008 World Bank Global Marketplace Competition.

To read personal reflections about Trapichitos, read this blog post from David Carlson, Agros Donor Relations National Director.

Mary Kay Burdick

The following has been written by Susan Moulton, Agros Board Chair:

mkIt is with great sadness that I am sharing with you the news of the death on April 20, 2010 of our beloved friend, Agros board member, and comrade in the fight to end rural poverty.

This beautiful message was posted on Mary Kay’s Carebridge site the morning of her passing:

“As the birds began a morning chorus, Mary Kay Burdick gracefully passed into the arms of God. She was never uncomfortable or in pain. The events of these final days have been exactly as MK wished. We have been able to grieve and laugh in nearly equal parts.”

Our hearts are also heavy and joyful in equal parts. Mary Kay contributed so much to the world she left behind: her CAN DO attitude and actions in serving the poor have been inspirational and have set into motion generational changes in the lives of so many. I am sad that so many of the families she served with all her heart will now never have the chance to encounter Mary Kay and the shinning light that burned in her so fiercely and brightly.

That light did not come without challenging many to ask questions that needed asking; it did not come without standing up for what was just and right no matter how uncomfortable it could be. As a close friend said, “Heaven needs to get ready, because when MK gets there she is sure to have lots of questions!”

Mary Kay raised her family the same way–by charting a deeply meaningful path, with love and engagement in all of life as a wife and mother. This path of love and engagement in the fullness of life will continue to be lived out by Mary Kay’s remarkable husband Don and wonderful children Morgan and Grady.

We miss MK fiercely, even as we celebrate the impact and legacy she has left in all of our lives.

Additionally, the following obituary was published in the Seattle Times:

Mary Kathryn ‘Mary Kay’ (Delay) Burdick, 51, Seattle community activist and former financial executive, passed peacefully into the arms of God on April 20, 2010. Her death followed a courageous three-year battle with cancer.

Born in Spokane on February 2, 1959, Mary Kay was the oldest of three children of Helen and John Delay. She graduated from Idaho’s Priest River High School, and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Idaho.

In 1981, she moved to Seattle and joined the accounting firm Price Waterhouse. She and Don Burdick were married in Seattle in 1983. Later, Mary Kay worked for Sullivan Payne Company as Chief Financial Officer, and for Costco Wholesale Korea as a buyer.

Charitable causes were central to Mary Kay’s life. She was particularly passionate about health care, serving as a community ambassador for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).

She also cared deeply about the impoverished, acting as a director for Agros, an organization dedicated to helping the rural poor in Central America and Mexico.

In addition, Mary Kay was a director of the Eastside Housing Alliance.

Mary Kay was often engaged in many other causes and was a frequent volunteer. Many people knew Mary Kay as a skilled financial officer, and still others knew her as a passionate gardener, Scout leader, active learner, go-to person, tireless advocate for the poor, or simply special friend.

Her husband Don knew her as best friend and faithful companion. To daughter Morgan and son Grady, she was an actively engaged mom who taught by example to love travel, seek adventure, be curious, treasure learning, explore boundaries, and make thoughtful choices.

Mary Kay’s faith was an integral part of her life, particularly after being diagnosed with metastatic cancer. She studied actively and shared her religious principles with her children. Her deeply held beliefs served as the foundation that allowed her to counsel and comfort not only fellow cancer patients but also others who are suffering.

Although disease was part of Mary Kay’s life for several years, it did not define or consume her. She became an optimist, a proactive student of cancer care, and made her own informed decisions about medical treatment.

In addition to her active engagement with PATH and Agros, she continued to travel widely, including trips to South Africa, Cambodia, Thailand, Nicaragua and much of the European Union.

While receiving enhanced cancer treatment in Germany, she kept a blog and interspersed her treatment updates with tales of her travels in Europe, revealing her great sense of adventure, optimism and curiosity.

Mary Kay is survived by her husband Don, daughter Morgan, and son Grady, all of Mercer Island; sister Cindy, and brother John (Angela), both of Spokane; and parents, John and Helen Delay of Priest River, Idaho.

A mass of celebration will be held May 10 at 3:00 p.m. at Saint Monica Catholic Church, Mercer Island.

Please direct remembrances to PATH.org and Agros.org.

Every Day Is Earth Day in an Agros Village

Earth with Hands On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we recognize that every day is Earth Day in the developing world. For millions of people around the world, their very survival today depends on access to land as a source of food, shelter, and income. But for the majority, their access to land remains tenuous and means there will always be vulnerability to hunger and poverty, and by extension, little capacity to worry about conserving resources when survival is at stake.

Recognizing that, land access is a key tenet of Agros’ development model.  Further, to safeguard the longevity of this valuable asset, we ensure that both environmental and economic sustainability measures are employed to work in concert, and the benefit of doing so is seen and well-understood by all Agros villagers. It takes time and practice to realize and appreciate those gains, but is most assuredly worth it. Agros staff provide ongoing workshops on everything from sustainable agricultural practices that promote crop diversification and soil conservation, organic composting, the benefits of using improved wood burning stoves, and more.

Mario with chilies Take the example of Mario in the village of Brisas del Volcán.  He used to work as a day laborer, leaving home at 3am only to return at 8pm each night, making very little money for time spent. Work could only be found during the peak-growing season from November to January, so he remembers months on end when he and his family were only able to eat just once a day. When working for the interests of a large landowner, he recounts he had little capacity or incentive to be concerned with sound agricultural practices. Today, by contrast, he is an active advocate for sustainability in his village. A natural leader, Mario served as Brisas del Volcán’s first President of Production and was responsible for managing all agricultural initiatives and marketing of those goods.  The village has enjoyed amazing benefits, both in dividends from the land and economic returns, from his leadership and direction in marrying crop diversification with environmental stewardship to protect their precious resources.

“Now we have chilies and banana plants… we have the luxury of working every day if need be, providing a better life for our families, and increasing our savings to do other things,” Mario shares. Today, his family works on all the shared communal crops as well as a project raising 60 chickens at home.

People are inclined to take better care of a resource that is their own. To that end, the Agros development model builds long-term assets ensuring access to land, affordable credit, and technical training proven to support sustainable land stewardship.

Do your part — celebrate Earth Day by investing in rural families who employ sustainable agricultural practices today and reap the rewards for many tomorrows to come!

Learn how else you can help at the Agros One Seed Gift Catalog!

Celebrating Women Today, and Every Day

Without regard for cultural, linguistic or ethnic divisions, March 8th is a day we honor the vast social, political and economic achievements of women worldwide.  International Women’s Day first emerged in 1909 largely through the push of labor movements, but officially took the global stage when recognized by the UN in 1975 “to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

The women of Agros villages have played extraordinary roles in the development of their communities. Not only do they tend to the family’s crops, but they are also successfully raising their children, managing the home, leading community efforts, furthering their own education, and starting and growing other small businesses. The stories of women’s achievements in Agros villages are countless, but here are just a few of note:

  • One woman, Petronilla, is determined to grow multiple income-generating projects and send her four daughters to school to learn to read and write (pursuits she could not achieve as an indigenous girl).
  • Ten women in the village of Brisas del Volcán can be credited for having the vision and sheer determination to start, build and grow that village.
  • Hundreds of women are advancing opportunity for their extended families by building ‘Women’s Community Banks’ across Agros villages.

Women Cooking

Agros International has always recognized and supported the critical role of women in building and nurturing thriving communities, families, and individuals.

One example of this can be seen in the Agros model which ensures that women are equally recognized on the title of land ownership—both the husband and the wife’s name is on the land title, which is not always the case otherwise in the region. Owning land for the first time in their lives is a powerful thing, giving women a tremendous sense of personal pride; getting equal recognition and reward in the eyes of the law for their contributions is an important component to building equity in other areas of community development.

Today we also give pause to look ahead and recognize that there is so much untapped potential and opportunity still awaiting future generations of women.

Together, let’s help support these women’s efforts by providing them with access to resources and the opportunity to grow.  Please consider giving the women of Agros villages the gift of hope through a gift of:

Agros 2009 Volunteers of the Year

At Agros we depend on volunteers to help our office run smoothly and help ensure we are achieving our mission of ending rural poverty in Central America and Mexico. Over this past year we have had many wonderful and capable volunteers. These folks have come from varying backgrounds and all have offered us so much. This year we would like to honor three  volunteers for providing Agros with outstanding service.

Jenna PhotoJenna Swalin began volunteering with Agros in February of 2009. She first learned about Agros while researching different NGOs in the Seattle area and was impressed by the Agros development model and the strength of the Marketing and Communications Department. In the Communications Department, she worked on expanding Agros’ presence on social networking channels and helped with the development and production of other communications pieces including the newsletters and blog entries. When asked what she enjoyed most about her work at Agros Jenna responded, “There are so many amazing and inspirational stories of change, of families that have transformed their lives through working with Agros. Having the opportunity to learn those stories and to convey them to the public was a blessing.” Jenna has just recently returned from Argentina and is looking for work similar to what she has done for Agros.

Alex PhotoAlex Richey learned about Agros through a family member and after some research, he found that by volunteering at Agros he would be able to learn more about Latin American culture and help those who are living in poverty. Alex began volunteering at our reception desk in September of 2009. He also helped the Development staff with various tasks. He most enjoyed helping with preparations for the Tierras de Vida fundraiser. When asked what his greatest reward from working with Agros was, he responded, “The people I met. Agros is a collection of innovative, brilliant people, and the company demonstrates what individuals can do to alleviate poverty in Central America.” Alex is currently teaching math to young people in Honduras, and his Agros experience reminds him how much he as an individual can help those that are less fortunate.

Arun PhotoArun Thomas learned about Agros through an enthusiastic presentation of an Agros Journey with a Village (JWAV) trip during a short-term mission introduction at University Presbyterian that he and his wife attended in 2001. In the fall of 2003, Arun and his wife had the opportunity to go on a service team trip to La Esperanza in Guatemala. They enjoyed the experience so much they returned to La Esperanza 6 times within in the following 4 years.  As a result of Arun’s extensive experience with Agros Service Teams and given his background with computers, he volunteered to develop and manage TeamAgros.net, the website/database Agros uses to manage all individual traveler and team specific information.  Arun also participated as a “Champion” for the Agros village of San Diego Tenango in El Salvador and he helped build relationships with that village which he felt was a little more difficult due to the different dynamics between Agros and the villagers. Arun appreciates the long-term sustainable approach Agros takes to development. Arun shares, “The relationships with the villagers and other team members are what keep us going. I am reminded every time that God is at work in peoples lives, whatever their circumstances are; and that he wants us to encourage one another–I feel the villagers encourage us to be more thankful for what we have materially and to exhort us to hope for what we can have relationally with God and with each other.”

Thank you  Jenna, Alex, and Arun… and to all Agros volunteers working to serve the poor with such passion and generosity.

Helping Our Haitian Neighbors

While we do not have operations there, all of us here at Agros are saddened by the tremendous loss and suffering endured by the people of Haiti and the tragedy that continues to unfold. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the countless people struggling to survive, the many families who’ve been affected worldwide, and to those organizations and individuals working tirelessly to help ease the suffering of so many.

The gravity of the situation and the sheer amount of work that lies ahead is daunting. But even the smallest of efforts can multiply into measurable impact for so many on the ground. And with so many organizations to choose from, we wanted to provide a list of a few agencies already at work that you might consider supporting in this effort:

You might also consider making a quick donation by text message. The Mobile Giving Foundation reports they’ve facilitated more than $10M to Haitian earthquake relief through text messages to date. For example, you can donate $5 to Haiti-born musician Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund by texting the word “Yele” to 501501, or $10 to the American Red Cross, by texting the word “Haiti” to 90999, and more.

We know you are a group who cares deeply about alleviating the suffering of those in the throes of poverty and despair — thank you in advance for your care, concern and support for those who truly need it.

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Agros International | Land Hope Life Ending Rural Poverty Through Land Loans, Community Training, And Empowerment.